‘Future begins here and now’
At the end of a very unconventional school year, the Catasauqua High School Class of 2021 gathered June 5 for a very conventional graduation ceremony.
After working through a number of plans, CHS Principal Adam Schnug was excited to be able to provide the graduates with a traditional commencement ceremony in the CHS gymnasium, surrounded by their family and friends. The only difference between this year’s celebration and past ceremonies was the presence of face masks.
After the students processed in to the traditional “Pomp and Circumstance March” played by the CHS band and led by director Robert Arnold, the graduation ceremony proceeded with this year’s featured speakers.
Student-selected speaker Sabrina Safadi talked about the past. She opened by discussing how this class will always be connected by the “collective memory of a rocky experience” - referring to the challenges she and her peers faced over the past year with the COVID-19 pandemic.
She recalled their earliest years in school and talked about how they grew up together, reflecting on specific memories from Sheckler Elementary School, Catasauqua Middle School and CHS.
“The early years were filled with nothing but fun,” Safadi said.
She noted they started developing into the people they are today during their transitions from grade to grade and from school to school. She said they had to overcome obstacles and awkward life stages to become who they were meant to be.
Safadi told her fellow graduates the Class of 2021 title represents their growth over the years and all they’ve been through.
“As I stand here, I’m looking at the faces of the people who made me,” she said.
Class Vice President Alexis Rushatz spoke about the present. She reflected on the emotions they are feeling and recognized the importance of each person in their graduating class. She noted the small class size helped them develop into a tight-knit community.
“The present is the path that leads to change,” she said.
Rushatz urged her fellow graduates to live in the present and to make a difference in “this rapidly changing world.”
“Living in the present was especially important this year as we were presented with new challenges daily,” she said.
She told her classmates to cherish this moment before it’s gone and part of the past.
Class Historian Olivia Emery introduced Catasauqua Mayor Barbara Schlegel to present the Class of 1970 and Robert Smith to present the Class of 1971.
Before naming the members of their respective classes who attended the event, Schlegel and Smith both noted how honored they were to be invited to help celebrate the Class of 2021.
Schnug took a few moments to share some thoughts with the graduates. His final lesson to the Class of 2021 was about how they persevered through each challenge they faced and how to move forward.
“Life’s a garden - dig in,” Schnug quoted from the movie “Joe Dirt.”
He also shared 10 life lessons using the garden as a metaphor for life from Marelisa Fabrega. These tips include to have a vision; prioritize; have healthy soil/a strong foundation; reap what you sow by taking solid steps for what you want; assess the condition and make sure your goals are a good fit for you; build fences around negativity; constantly tend to stay focused; have patience and trust the process; learn to deal with things out of your control; and reap your harvest and enjoy the rewards.
Schnug then recognized the class valedictorian, Olivia Becker, for having the highest grade-point average and the salutatorian, Rushatz, for having the second-highest GPA. He also named all the students who received 16 honor rolls during their time at CHS.
Schnug took time to thank the school board members as well as the teachers, administrators and aides from each school for helping get through a challenging year. He also recognized the district’s retirees.
Class Treasurer Janessa Ortiz presented the class gift. She reported she and her classmates donated to the Class of 2023 for next year’s prom and to the new Alumni Field stadium project.
Becker shared some thoughts on the future.
“The future begins here and now,” she said.
She noted that no matter what the future holds for her classmates - college, trade school, military service or the workforce - they will all be guided by the lessons they learned at CHS.
She also told her classmates to do their best, no matter what.
“Although we are all facing different paths for the first time, we are a family,” Becker said. “We will always bleed brown and white.”
Class Secretary Derek Troxell gave the final farewell speech.
“It’s been truly an honor to share these lifelong memories together,” he said to his classmates. “Take everything you learned in our small community, and use it to influence the world.”
Catasauqua Area School District Superintendent Robert Spengler shared his excitement at being able to celebrate the Class of 2021. He noted how well the students adapted to recent and constant changes, adding they “outperformed other communities during a once-in-a-lifetime pandemic.”
“Look forward to life with much anticipation and hope,” he told the graduates.
After the graduates received their diplomas, class President Tyler Monahan led the traditional switching over of the tassels as a visual representation of their moving forward and leaving high school behind.
The Class of 2021 recessional march ended with the time-honored Catasauqua tradition of The Grand Catty Line. The graduates formed a border around the gymnasium and took their final act as a class - the tossing of the caps.